Mad Max violence stalks Venezuela’s lawless roads

A child looks at a basket filled with mandarins while workers load merchandise into Humberto Aguilar's truck at the wholesale market in Barquisimeto, Venezuela January 30,

By Andrew Cawthorne

LA GRITA, Venezuela (Reuters) – It’s midnight on one of the most dangerous roads in Latin America and Venezuelan trucker Humberto Aguilar hurtles through the darkness with 20 tons of vegetables freshly harvested from the Andes for sale in the capital Caracas.

When he set off at sunset from the town of La Grita in western Venezuela on his 900-km (560-mile) journey, Aguilar knew he was taking his life in his hands.

With hunger widespread amid a fifth year of painful economic implosion under President Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela has seen a frightening surge in attacks on increasingly lawless roads.

Just a few days earlier, Aguilar said he sat terrified when hundreds of looters swarmed a stationary convoy, overwhelming drivers by sheer numbers. They carted off milk, rice and sugar from other trucks but left his less-prized vegetables alone.

“Every time I say goodbye to my family, I entrust myself to God and the Virgin,” said the 36-year-old trucker.

Workers pose for a picture while they load vegetables into a truck to sell them in the town of Guatire outside Caracas, in La Grita, Venezuela January 27, 2018.

Workers pose for a picture while they load vegetables into a truck to sell them in the town of Guatire outside Caracas, in La Grita, Venezuela January 27, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

While truck heists have long been common in Latin America’s major economies from Mexico to Brazil, looting of cargoes on roads has soared in Venezuela in recent times and appears to be not just a result of common crime but directly linked to growing hunger and desperation among the population of 30 million.

Across Venezuela, there were some 162 lootings in January, including 42 robberies of trucks, according to the consultancy Oswaldo Ramirez Consultores (ORC), which tracks road safety for companies. That compared to eight lootings, including one truck robbery, in the same month of last year.

“The hunger and despair are far worse than people realize, what we are seeing on the roads is just another manifestation of that. We’ve also been seeing people stealing and butchering animals in fields, attacking shops and blocking roads to protest their lack of food. It’s become extremely serious,” said ORC director Oswaldo Ramirez.

Eight people have died in the lootings in January of this year, according to a Reuters tally.

The dystopian attacks in a country with one of the world’s highest murder rates are pushing up transport and food costs in an already hyperinflationary environment, as well as stifling movement of goods in the crisis-hit OPEC nation.

They have complicated the perilous life of truckers who already face harassment from bribe-seeking soldiers, spiraling prices for parts and hours-long lines for fuel.

Government officials and representatives of the security forces did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Barred by law from carrying guns, the Andean truckers form convoys to protect themselves, text each other about trouble spots – and keep moving as fast as possible.

Aguilar said that on one trip a man appeared on his truck’s sideboard and put a pistol to his head – but his co-driver swerved hard to shake the assailant off.

On this journey, however, he was lucky. Just before reaching Caracas, assailants hurled a stone at his windscreen but it bounced off.

Even once Andean truckers reach cities, there is no respite.

Armed gangs often charge them for safe passage and permission to set up markets.

“The government gives us no security. It’s madness. People have got used to the easy life of robbing,” said Javier Escalante, who owns two trucks that take vegetables from La Grita to the town of Guatire outside Caracas every week.

“But if we stop, how do we earn a living for our families? How do Venezuelans eat? And how do the peasant farmers sell their produce? We have no choice but to keep going.”

GUNMEN ON BIKES

The looters use a variety of techniques, depending on the terrain and the target, according to truckers, inhabitants of towns on highways, and videos of incidents.

Sometimes gunmen on motorbikes surround a truck, slowing it down before pouncing like lions stalking prey. In other instances, attackers wait for a vehicle to slow down – at a pothole for example – before jumping on, cutting through the tarpaulin and hurling goods onto the ground for waiting companions.

In one video apparently showing a looting and uploaded to social media, people are seen gleefully dragging live chickens from a stranded truck.

The looters use tree trunks and rocks to stop vehicles, and are particularly fond of “miguelitos” – pieces of metal with long spikes – to burst tires and halt vehicles.

A ring-road round the central town of Barquisimeto, with shanty-towns next to it, is notorious among truckers, who nickname it “The Guillotine” due to the regular attacks.

In some cases, crowds simply swarm at trucks when they stop for a break or repairs. Soldiers or policemen seldom help, according to interviews with two dozen drivers.

Yone Escalante, 43, who also takes vegetables from the Andes on a 2,800-km (1,700-mile) round-trip to eastern Venezuela, shudders when he recalls how a vehicle of his was ransacked in the remote plains of Guarico state last year.

The trouble began when one of his two trucks broke down and about 60 people appeared from the shadows and surrounded it.

Escalante, about half an hour behind in his truck, rushed to help. By the time he arrived, the crowd had swelled to 300 and Escalante – a well-spoken businessman who owns trucks and sells produce – said he jumped on the vehicle to reason with them.

“Suddenly two military men arrived on the scene, and I thought ‘Thank God, help has arrived’,” Escalante recounted during a break between trips in La Grita.

But as the crowd chanted menacingly “Food for the people!”, the soldiers muttered something about the goods being insured – which they were not – and drove off, he said.

“That was the trigger. They came at us like ants and stripped us of everything: potatoes, onions, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots. It took me all day to load that truck, and 30 minutes for them to empty it. I could cry with rage.”

MAD MAX OR ROBIN HOOD?

Though events on Venezuela’s roads may seem like something out of the Mad Max movie, truckers say they are often more akin to Robin Hood as assailants are careful not to harm the drivers or their vehicles provided they do not resist.

“The best protection is to be submissive, hand things over,” said Roberto Maldonado, who handles paperwork for truckers in La Grita. “When people are hungry, they are dangerous.”

However, all the truckers interviewed by Reuters said they knew of someone murdered on the roads – mainly during targeted robberies rather than spontaneous lootings.

With new tires now going for about 70 million bolivars – about $300 on the black market or more than two decades of work at the official minimum wage – looters often swipe them along with food.

The journey from the Andes to Caracas passes about 25 checkpoints, where the truckers have to alight and seek a stamp from National Guard soldiers.

At some, a bribe is required, with a bag of potatoes now more effective than increasingly worthless cash.

Yone Escalante said that on one occasion when he was looted after a tire burst, policemen joined in the fray, taking bananas and cheese with the crowd.

In the latest attack, just days ago, he was traveling slowly over potholes in a convoy with four other trucks after dark, when assailants jumped on and started grabbing produce.

“Even though there were holes in the road, we sped up and swerved to shake them off,” he said. “It’s either us or them.”

(See http://reut.rs/2GVaX0s for a related photo essay and http://tmsnrt.rs/2sgqfJP for a map of one trucking route)

(Additional reporting by Leon Wietfeld in Caracas and Anggy Polanco in La Grita; Editing by Girish Gupta, Daniel Flynn and Frances Kerry)

More than 50 arrested for looting in Miami during Irma: police

Local residents stand in the darkness as many areas of Miami still without electricity after Hurricane Irma strikes Florida, in Little Havana, Miami, Florida, September 11, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

By Zach Fagenson

MIAMI (Reuters) – Miami area police arrested more than 50 suspected looters during Hurricane Irma, including 26 people who were accused of breaking into a single Wal-Mart (WMT.N> store, authorities said on Tuesday.

City officials on Tuesday lifted a local 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew that had been in place since Sunday. As normality began to return, police commanders said officers will work 12-hour shifts, 24 hours a day, to discourage any more criminality.

“I said we would not tolerate criminal activity or looting or anybody who takes advantage of our residents,” Deputy Chief of Police Luis Cabrera said at a news conference. “I was not joking.”

The Wal-Mart incident took place on Saturday night at a store on the north side of the City of Miami, said Miami-Dade Police Department spokesman Alvaro Zabaleta.

Among others suspected of looting were six men arrested on Monday and accused of breaking into stores at the Midtown Miami shopping complex, near the fashionable Wynwood district, before making off with merchandise that included shoes, bags and laptops.

The looting attempts spanned the city, said Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, from the well-heeled Brickell and downtown neighborhoods to the low-income Liberty City and Little Haiti areas. He said police will stay vigilant as the cleanup goes on.

Officers have also been busy trawling roads that can be perilous for motorists because power cuts shut off traffic lights at intersections and streets have accumulated shredded vegetation spread by the storm’s powerful winds.

“We have never experienced, not even with Hurricane Andrew, the amount of trees that are downed in the city,” Regalado told the news conference. Hurricane Andrew hit Florida in 1992.

Since Irma began bearing down on the state late last week, authorities have been warning any would-be looters against taking advantage of the situation.

Rick Maglione, the police chief of Fort Lauderdale, about 30 miles (48 km) north of Miami, told residents to stay home during the storm and look after their loved ones. “Going to prison over a pair of sneakers is a fairly bad life choice,” Maglione said in a statement.

Miami police posted a photo on Facebook of several accused looters sitting in a jail cell under the caption: “Thinking about looting? Ask these guys how that turned out. #stayindoors.”

(Reporting by Zach Fagenson; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Dan Grebler)

Caribbean residents fend off looters after Irma; Branson urges ‘Marshall Plan’

An aireal view shows damage after hurricane Irma passed over Providenciales on the Turks and Caicos Islands, September 11, 2017. Picture taken September 11, 2017. Cpl Darren Legg RLC/Ministry of Defence handout via REUTERS

By Alvin Baez

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Reuters) – Food shortages and looting on Caribbean islands hammered by Hurricane Irma sparked growing criticism of the government response, prompting British billionaire Richard Branson to call for a “Marshall plan” to help the region recover.

Irma ripped through the tiny easterly Leeward Islands last week as one of the Atlantic’s strongest ever storms, killing two dozen people, uprooting trees, tearing down power cables and severely damaging the homes of poor locals and the global jet-set alike.

Across the whole of the Caribbean, Irma killed nearly 40 people and devastated basic services, tearing cracks in law and order. Looting erupted on some Caribbean islands where residents and tourists were stranded with little food, shelter or drinking water.

Jenn Manes, who writes a blog on U.S. Virgin Island St. John, detailed a list of robberies and break-ins on the island after Irma struck, saying she had to install a bar on the inside of her door to keep out would-be burglars.

“This is not St. John anymore. I’m not sure what it is. What I do know is that I am scared. My friends are scared. And we don’t know what to do,” she wrote.

Despite sending reinforcements and ships to deliver help, France, Britain and the Netherlands have been criticized for not doing enough for the islands that they oversee.

Britain’s Defence Minister Michael Fallon at the weekend said his government’s effort was “as good as anybody else’s.”

The Dutch government on Sunday described the situation as “fragile” on its half of the island of St. Martin, where an undisclosed number of arrests of looters were made after Irma damaged or destroyed 70 percent of the local housing stock.

Alex Martinez, a 31-year-old American trapped on the Dutch part of St. Martin by Irma, said looters tried to raid his near-deserted hotel before he and others chased them off. “We had to fend for ourselves,” he told Reuters.

Struggling to get answers about loved-ones, many people resorted to sharing information and making pleas on a Facebook page set up to help people on St. Martin.

Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk on Monday visited St. Martin, reviewing the damage done to the battered island with local leaders. French President Emmanuel Macron was expected in the Caribbean on Tuesday.

British Army Commandos take part in recovery efforts after hurricane Irma passed Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, September 11, 2017. Picture taken September 11, 2017. Captain George Eatwell RM/Ministry of Defence handout via REUTERS

British Army Commandos take part in recovery efforts after hurricane Irma passed Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, September 11, 2017. Picture taken September 11, 2017. Captain George Eatwell RM/Ministry of Defence handout via REUTERS

BRANSON CALLS FOR AID EFFORT

Following the passage of Hurricane Luis in 1995, which killed at least 15 people in the Caribbean and damaged 60 percent of housing on St. Martin, the U.S. National Hurricane Center estimated the cost to St. Martin alone at $1.8 billion.

Businessman Branson, who has lived in the British Virgin Islands for the past 11 years, said in a blog post on www.virgin.com that the region needed a “Disaster Recovery Marshall Plan” to rebuild and revitalize its economy – a reference to the multibillion-dollar U.S. program that helped rebuild Western Europe after the devastation of World War Two.

“We must get more help to the islands to rebuild homes and infrastructure and restore power, clean water and food supplies,” said Branson, head of the Virgin Group conglomerate.

He said he was writing from Puerto Rico, where he was mobilizing aid efforts, and that he would be returning to the Virgin Islands soon for recovery work.

Branson said the British government had a “massive role to play” in rebuilding its territories, including the British Virgin Islands, an offshore financial center.

The premier of the British Virgin Islands, Orlando Smith, also appealed for urgent aid from Britain, saying the situation was critical and calling for a comprehensive package. The plan should include the possibility of more extreme weather “as the effects of climate change continue to grow,” he said.

Still, on Monday, blogger Manes on U.S. Virgin Island St. John reported the situation was improving, saying police were patrolling the streets and that a Navy ship had arrived to help.

(Additional reporting by Dave Graham in Mexico City, Daniel Flynn in Sao Paulo, Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam, Ingrid Melander in Paris; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Bill Trott and Lisa Shumaker)

Highland Venezuelan town blitzed by looting and protests

Manuel Fernandes, a local businessman, embraces a neighbour outside of his bread and cake shop after looters broke in, following days of protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in the city of Los Teques, near Caracas, Venezuela, May 19, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

By Andrew Cawthorne

LOS TEQUES, Venezuela (Reuters) – Like many Portuguese immigrants to Venezuela after World War Two, Manuel Fernandes spent a lifetime building a small business: his bread and cake shop in a highland town.

It took just one night for it to fall apart.

The first he knew of the destruction of his beloved “Bread Mansion” store on a main avenue of Los Teques was when looters triggered the alarm, resulting in a warning call to his cellphone at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

Fernandes was stuck at home due to barricades and protests that have become common in seven weeks of anti-government unrest in Venezuela. So he was forced to watch the disaster unfold via live security camera images.

“There were hundreds of people. They smashed the glass counters, the fridges. They took everything – ham, cheese, milk, cornflakes, equipment,” the 65-year-old said, as workmen secured the shop on Friday with thick metal plates.

“I’ve dedicated everything to this. My family depends on it,” said the distraught businessman, on a street where most neighboring stores were also ransacked in a frenzy of looting in Los Teques this week.

Unrest and protests against President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government since early April have caused at least 46 deaths plus hundreds of injuries and arrests.

They have also sparked widespread nighttime looting.

When a mob smashed its way into a bakery in El Valle, a working class neighborhood of Caracas, last month, 11 people died, eight of them electrocuted and three shot.

This week, Maduro’s government sent 2,000 troops to western Tachira state, where scores of businesses have been emptied.

In Los Teques, an hour’s drive into hills outside Caracas, locals spoke of up to half a dozen more deaths in looting and clashes this week between security forces and young protesters from a self-styled ‘Resistance’ movement.

There has been no official confirmation of those deaths.

Reuters journalists visiting the town on Friday had to negotiate permission from masked youths manning roadblocks and turning back traffic at the main entrances.

Mostly students, the young men said they had put academic work on hold and were determined to stay in the street until Maduro allowed a general election, the main demand of Venezuela’s opposition in the current political crisis.

‘NOTHING TO LOSE’

“We are from humble families. We have nothing to lose. I don’t even have enough for a bus fare or food. That tyrant Maduro has wrecked everything,” said Alfredo, 28, who stopped studying to man barricades and says he runs a unit of 23 “resistance” members.

Armed with homemade shields, stones and Molotov cocktails, the youths build barricades with branches, furniture and bags of trash, scrawling slogans like ‘No Surrender’ on nearby walls.

They turn back traffic and wait for the inevitable arrival of security forces. Some have scars and wounds from intense clashes this week.

Oil has been spread on the ground to deter armored vehicles used by the National Guard. Barbed wire is also used.

On Friday morning, one man walked up to the barricade with a woman in a wheelchair, and was granted special permission to pass. Some women, trying to visit relatives jailed in a nearby prison, also managed to talk their way through.

Mid-morning, some neighbors delivered arepas, a cornmeal flatbread that is Venezuela’s staple food, to the youths, offering them words of encouragement and thanks.

“You see, they all support us,” said Micky, covering his face with a red bandana at a barricade. “We are not coup-mongers like Maduro says. All we want is a general election.”

The 54-year-old president narrowly won election in 2013 to replace the late Hugo Chavez who died from cancer.

But without his predecessor’s charisma, popular touch and unprecedented oil revenues, Maduro has seen his popularity plunge as the economy nosedived, helping the opposition win majority support in the OPEC nation of 30 million people.

He accuses foes of an “armed insurrection,” with the support of the United States, and blames “fascist” protesters for all the deaths and destruction in Venezuela since April.

In Los Teques, however, youths at the barricades hotly deny any involvement in looting, pointing the finger instead at local pro-government neighborhood groups known as ‘colectivos.’

The unrest is exacerbating an already appalling economic crisis in Venezuela. There is widespread scarcity of food and medicines, inflation is making people poorer and hungrier, and standing for hours in shopping lines has become a norm for many.

“I’m closing. So the same people who did this to me now won’t have anywhere to buy their food,” said Fernandes, running his hands through his hair and surveying the once-bustling commercial street of now boarded-up shop fronts.

“Why are we all hurting and fighting each other?”

(Editing by Girish Gupta, Toni Reinhold)

Looters ransack shops on third day of South African vote violence

Shell of a burnt out truck

By Dinky Mkhize

PRETORIA (Reuters) – Looters raided shops and burned-out cars blocked roads in South Africa’s capital on Wednesday, the third day of violence triggered by the ruling party’s choice of a mayoral candidate for local polls.

Police said rioters were targeting foreigners’ shops as public anger mounted over economic hardships in the build-up to Aug. 3 elections likely to become a referendum on President Jacob Zuma’s leadership.

Residents of Pretoria’s townships started setting cars and buses alight on Monday night after the ruling African National Congress’ (ANC) named a candidate in the Tshwane municipality where the capital city is located, overruling the choice of regional branches.

Violence flared again on Tuesday night and continued in parts of the capital on Wednesday, Tshwane Metro police spokesman Console Tleane said.

“There is calm in some hot spots, (but) the navigation of the streets is difficult because of the rubble and the debris,” he told eNCA television.

Protesters were continuing to clash with police and “a disproportionate part of the looting was taking place at shops owned by foreign nationals,” he added.

Foreigners, many of them from other African countries, last suffered a wave of attacks in April last year, by crowds blaming them for taking jobs and business.

Analysts warned of more unrest in the commercial hub of Gauteng province, which includes Pretoria and Johannesburg.

“Intra-ANC, election-related, factional violence is being ignored by markets trading on external factors, but is worrying,” London-based Nomura emerging markets analyst Peter Attard Montalto said in a note.

FACTIONS

The mayoral dispute flared at the weekend after an ANC member was shot dead on Sunday as party factions met to decide on a candidate for mayor of Pretoria’s Tshwane municipality.

The ANC leadership then named senior party member and former cabinet minister Thoko Didiza as its candidate for Tshwane, overriding regional branch members and refusing to back down as the violence mounted.

The ANC said it picked the candidate as a compromise between two rival factions in Tshwane. But critics say the decision by the party, which has been in power since the end of white-minority rule in 1994, showed that it is losing its touch in areas – including Pretoria – where it was once unassailable.

Zuma survived impeachment in April after Constitutional Court ruled that he breached the constitution by ignoring an order by the anti-graft watchdog to repay some of the $16 million in state funds spent renovating his home.

“Ahead of the August elections, disgruntled ANC supporters in Gauteng will be motivated by the Pretoria riots to stage further protests to demonstrate the unpopular ANC leadership’s decisions,” Robert Besseling, head of the EXX Africa business risk intelligence group said in a note.

(Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Venzuela looters target chicken, flour amid worsening of shortages

A Venezuelan soldier stands guard next to people forming a line to try to buy cornmeal flour and margarine at a pharmacy in Caracas

By Anggy Polaco

SAN CRISTOBAL, Venezuela (Reuters) – Mobs in Venezuela have stolen flour, chicken and even underwear this week as looting increases across the crisis-hit OPEC nation where many basic products have run short.

Many people now get up in the dead of night to spend hours in long lines in front of supermarkets. But as more end up empty-handed and black market prices soar, plundering is rising in Venezuela, already one of the world’s most violent countries.

There is no official data, but rights group Venezuelan Observatory for Social Conflict reported 107 episodes of looting or attempted looting in the first quarter.

Videos of crowds breaking into shops, swarming onto trucks or fighting over products frequently make the rounds on social media, though footage is often hard to confirm.

In one of the latest incidents, several hundred people looted a truck carrying kitchen rolls, salt and shampoo after it crashed and some of its load tumbled out in volatile Tachira state on Thursday, according to a local official and witnesses.

Fifteen people were injured, including six security officials trying to restrain the crowd, said local civil protection official Luis Castrillon.

“There was a big scuffle … There were shots in the air and they fired tear gas,” said witness Manuel Cardenas, 40.

Such scenes are adding to an increasingly dire panorama in the South American oil exporter, where inflation is the highest in the world, the economy has been shrinking since early 2014, and there are frequent power and water cuts.

President Nicolas Maduro blames the crisis on the fall in global oil prices, a drought that has hit hydroelectric power generation and an “economic war” by right-wing businessmen and politicians.

But the opposition say he and his predecessor Hugo Chavez are to blame for disastrous statist economic policies.

They are pushing for a recall referendum this year to remove Maduro, 53, and trigger a new election.

In other looting incidents this week, a group of hooded motor bikers tried, also on Thursday, to steal some 650 sacks of flour as they were being delivered to a deposit in the nearby Andean state of Merida.

Security forces managed to stop the theft, but two National Guards and four policemen were injured in the melee, according to a local security official.

On Wednesday, looters in Merida broke into a state-run supermarket, stealing food, shelves and even doors after learning chicken was being stored there. An underwear store was plundered a day earlier in the same state.

Socialist Party officials have condemned the looters as criminals and smugglers seeking to make a quick buck from re-selling. Maduro has vowed a tough hand against violence and warned his enemies are plotting a “coup” akin to this week’s suspension of Brazilian leader Dilma Rousseff.

Critics counter that hunger and desperation are pushing people to theft, and warn the situation will only worsen barring urgent policy changes such as an easing of strict currency and price controls that have crimped imports and production.

(Additional reporting by Daniel Kai; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Tom Brown)

Rioters Attack Baltimore Police

Violent black youths stormed out of a funeral for Freddie Gray, the man who died while in Baltimore police custody, and launched a series of violent attacks on police.

The attacks involved throwing rocks and bricks at officers and setting several police vehicles on fire.

Police spokesman Capt. Eric Kowalczyk said that seven officers were injured as a result of attacks from protesters including one who is unresponsive and in critical condition.  Several of the wounded officers are suffering from broken bones due to the projectiles thrown at them.

WMAR Baltimore is reporting that many of the rioters appear to be youths between 14 and 18 years old.  Religious leaders in the region are calling on their followers to find out where their children are and to take them home, especially if they are part of the protests.

Rev. Jamal H. Bryant, who delivered the eulogy for Gray, told CNN that the city was in a “code red crisis.”  He said that men from the Nation of Islam are planning to build a “human wall” to stop the bomb from coming downtown in an attempt to stem the violence.

City Council President Jack Young posted on Facebook pleading with the community to stop their actions.

“The World is watching us to see if we do what took place in 1968,” he said, referring to riots that crippled the city. “We literally destroyed our neighborhood and business. We never really recovered from that.”

Downtown businesses closed early and evacuated their staff after reports indicated the rioters were attempting to head downtown with their violence.

A CVS Pharmacy on W. North Avenue was overrun by protesters who completely looted and destroyed the store.  WMAR-TV showed men sitting in the street going through bags of prescription drugs and a van that was loaded with stolen personal hygiene products.

The family of Freddie Gray had asked at the funeral for no protests following the service.

Rioters Burn Down Multiple Ferguson Businesses

Rioters burned down multiple businesses and destroyed property throughout the night after hearing the grand jury’s findings that Michael Brown charged at Officer Darren Wilson resulting in the officer’s actions being justified.

KMOV-TV reported that the majority of the businesses that were destroyed by the looters were minority owned.

A large block of businesses on West Florissant Avenue were burned to the ground including Walgreens, Little Caesars Pizza, Title Max, Family Dollar, Autozone and O’Reilly Auto Parts.

Fire department officials say at one point last night there were so many fires started by the supporters of the Brown family that they did not have enough manpower and equipment to fight them all.

The rioters were shooting so much that the Federal Aviation Administration put in place a temporary ban for aircraft over the area out of fear they would be struck.  Flights into the St. Louis Airport had to be diverted around the area.

Police reports say 80 people were arrested as a result of the riots.